Wholesalers can watch their profits soar to the top of the scale in summer– if they know how to make the most of it, says Tan Parsons.
Hot weather has the potential to drive sales sky-high during the summer, making the season as important as Christmas, if not more so, for many wholesalers. But it is fraught with challenges, such as how to keep enough stock to meet demand and ensure your customers don’t let the extra summer sales slip through their fingers.
Small is big in summer
Smaller bottles of soft and alcoholic drinks sell well
“Summer is the pinnacle of the year for independent retail and wholesale businesses because this is the convenience market,” says Time Cash & Carry MD Sony Bihal. The Barking wholesaler sees sales start moving upwards in March, with May the peak point in the year in terms of both revenue and profitability. Make May work for you and you will build momentum through June and July – perhaps even into August, when sales can dip by as much as 20% as the holiday season kicks in.
Bihal says that Time “throws” marketing at the summer season, looking 15 weeks ahead when planning its promotional activity, because this is when customers are looking to switch wholesalers.
“The most important thing for summer is to stock up well and promote early,” he says. “There’s no factor so crucial as the weather, so when April comes, stock up on everything. Every year, someone runs out of stock. We buy in 10 or 15 trucks’ worth of Evian and Volvic so we know we can cope.”
Because the British weather can be highly unpredictable, wholesalers and their foodservice and retail customers need to be able to respond quickly to make the most of the summer months, according to Richard Pierce, co-founder of ice cream supplier Joe Delucci’s.
“Summer is a crucial period for wholesalers, offering opportunities for growth and substantial profit. But it’s also a tricky one,” he says.
How much summer produce should you order and how big will the opportunity for these items be? While there’s never a concrete answer, there are some things wholesalers can do to prepare.
“Organisation and preparation are key,” says Pierce. “Mapping out national events that are set to take place over the summer months means you can use them to your advantage and create promotions or offers around them, no matter what the weather is like.
“It’s also worth talking to your suppliers to see what they’re doing. Are they launching a new product and do they have plans to boost it with large-scale marketing activity that you could get involved with? It’s these type of promotions that can help to drive sales even when the weather is a wash out.”
One wholesaler planning for a brilliant summer is Bestway Brighton general manager Fida Hussain. “At the start of the year, we create a calendar of all events planned nationally and locally,” he says. “This enables us to put in bespoke themed and tailor-made promotions, activities and events to maximize sales and ensure our customers benefit.”
One of the company’s busiest times is the annual summer Gay Pride festival, which always creates a record-breaking sales uplift at the depot.
“We get all the staff and customers involved to create a fun and relaxed atmosphere with good theatre and major support from suppliers,” says Hussain.
“We also have regular barbecues for customers to enhance the party spirit, as well as sampling and product demonstrations.”